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  • Writer's pictureAlexis Hass

The Impact of Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

What is a self-fulfilling prophecy?

A self-fulfilling prophecy is when you increase your chances of something happening by believing and behaving as it if it will. Self-fulfilling prophecies are more often than not created unintentionally and can have serious consequences to our self-esteem if left unchecked.

How do self-fulfilling prophecies work?

A belief that something will happen is all it takes to start the prophecy cycle. That belief then affects both your verbal and nonverbal communication, your actions and behaviors, and it even influences the people around you. These changes then ultimately affect the likelihood of your expected outcome. As a result, you tend to receive confirmation for your original belief. For example, let’s say you have a test coming up that you believe you are going to fail. Since you already set up the expectation of failure, you are likely to behave in a way that reinforces that belief. For example, you may choose not to study because what’s the point if you’re just going to fail anyway or maybe the stress of expected failure causes a poor night’s sleep right before the exam. Either way, your actions are influencing your outcome. Not studying, spending your time stressing, and missing a good night’s rest, all increase the likelihood that you will do poorly on your exam.

How do self-fulfilling prophecies affect our self-esteem?

When self-fulfilling prophecies include negative core beliefs about us or our abilities (the belief that we will fail an exam, the belief that we won’t get the job we want, etc.) and we leave them unchallenged, we are reinforcing a negative self-image. Staying motivated and focusing on our goals can be challenging when we don't believe in our ability to succeed.

How can we use self-fulfilling prophecies to our advantage?

The first step is to be aware that self-fulfilling prophecies exist. If you need help remembering, remind yourself that a belief alters a perception alters a behavior alters an outcome. After that, is important that you attempt to be optimistic and have positive expectations. You can use this mindset to help establish your goals and increase your likelihood of accomplishing them.

By: Alexis Haas

Master of Social Work Intern

Park University

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